Button to compete in second UK triathlon this weekend

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Not content with being one of the fittest drivers on the Formula One grid, the Honda Racing F1 Team’s Jenson Button regularly competes in demanding triathlon events to further improve his impressive fitness levels.

Following Jenson’s successful participation in his first UK event at Sevenoaks in April where he finished an impressive 16th out of 250 competitors, Jenson and his physio Mike Collier will be participating in the Nokia Royal Windsor Triathlon on Sunday 15 June. The prestigious event, which attracts 2500 competitors, will see Jenson and Mike compete in the Olympic category which comprises a 1500m swim in the River Thames, a 42km bike ride through the surrounding Berkshire villages and a 10km run through Windsor’s Great Park.

We talked to Mike to find out what benefits triathlon training brings to Jenson’s already intense Formula One fitness regime.

What particular demands does a triathlon event put on the body?

“Each of the three triathlon disciplines places their own particular demands on the body. The first discipline, which is the swim, places emphasis on the upper body, particularly the shoulders, lats and triceps. The second and third disciplines, the bike and run respectively, stress the lower limbs. All of the arm and leg movements are enhanced by good core stability, flexibility and co-ordination. The length of the race will determine the type and percentage of energy systems required, although both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems will be utilised.”

What specific training do you and Jenson undertake for a triathlon?

“Throughout the close season, we travel to warmer climates, mainly Lanzarote, to undertake specific driver training to prepare Jenson for the start of the new Formula One season. Triathlon has become an integral part of this training as it forms an excellent cross-training method. We spend time on all three of the triathlon disciplines working on technique drills with training intensity monitored by heart rate. This is combined with weight training, flexibility and core stability exercises that are specific to the triathlon with excellent crossover for motor racing. Throughout the Formula One season, we will spend periods in Monaco undertaking sea swims, coastal runs and mountain cycles as part of our fitness maintenance programme which is carefully combined with two to three triathlon competitions. Fitness testing is an integral part of our programme and the most scientific way of monitoring and guiding training.”

How does Jenson’s triathlon training differ from his F1 fitness programme?

“The beauty of triathlon is that it stresses all energy systems and the whole body which forms an excellent platform for driver training. In addition, to prepare Jenson for driving his Formula One car, we focus on more specific aspects such as forearm, neck and core stability strength combined with speed, agility and response exercises.”

Does the triathlon training bring any additional advantages to Jenson’s fitness for F1?

“I have conducted research which alludes to the fact that the fitter a person is, the easier they will find physical tasks. Therefore the fitter the driver, the more capable they are of handling hot and humid driving conditions for example, without affecting their driver performance. In addition to this, driver fitness has and will become more of an important factor with the removal of driver aids on the cars for this year, and the demands that slick tyres will place on the drivers for 2009.”

How do you prepare Jenson for a triathlon event compared to a F1 race weekend?

"There are many parallels with the preparation for a triathlon and that of a Grand Prix weekend. For example we ensure that all equipment is checked and fully operational (bikes, helmet, wet suits), that clear goals are set prior to the performance (race split times for example), that the circuit is well known prior to the event, that nutrition and hydration are maximized and that the body is both physically and psychologically ready for the event. All of these aspects, plus a few others specific to F1, would be considered prior to a Grand Prix."

Do you have to train extra hard yourself to keep up with Jenson?

"I had experience of conducting driver training whilst working for the Benetton team in 2001 which was when I first met Jenson. Working with him now, it is clear to see that his fitness has improved immensely. Consequently, I have had to improve on my fitness levels in order to push and challenge Jenson when we train together. We have our own strengths and weaknesses which leads to a great competitive rivalry in everything that we do."

Source Honda